Startups – What Irks Your Customer with Ashutosh Garg

Mr. Ashutosh Garg, founder of Guardian Pharmacy and a seasoned professional with tremendous experience managing all kinds of customers in a tell-all conversation with Arani Chaudhuri, founder of iarani, a digital transformation agency. He talks about the importance of customer service, why customer service should be ingrained in a company’s culture, what startups can do to build a culture of customer service, and how one should deal with difficult customers.

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If you just stay silent and don't do anything on the assumption that the customer will understand then you have a difficult situation because then complaints will come in. Communication is the key. You have to communicate to the customer at the right time.

Ashutosh Garg

We exist because of the customer. We are in business because of the customer and our entire brand is there only because the customer is buying the brand.

Ashutosh Garg

In the service sector you have to do two things every morning when you leave for work. Number one, take off your watch and leave it by your bedside and number two, remove your ego and hang it on the hook behind your bathroom door because there is absolutely no place for either the time or your ego when you're talking to a customer.

Ashutosh Garg

Remember that a negative customer will spread a lot of negative things about you but a customer who is negative and who has had a positive experience will become your greatest ambassador.

Ashutosh Garg

Customer service is one of those aspects of business that is crucial in determining an organisation’s success. However, this is also an area that most organisations find toughest to crack. Since time immemorial we have been lead to believe that the customer is always right which means that even when we know that the customer is being unreasonable or irrational, we need to ensure that we are being doubly reasonable and calm.

While dealing with customers it is extremely vital to keep one’s ego aside. Through objective and rational thinking as well as by taking an uncompromising stand on your principles, it is possible to convert even a negative customer into your biggest brand ambassador. Also, if you wish for each of your staff members to place a very high premium on exceptional customer service, make sure that they respect the brand. By doing so, it is possible to weave customer service into the culture and value system of your organisation.

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What should you do if you are not able to keep up your commitments to your customers?

So, historically around the world, most customers are very forgiving but where a customer gets upset is when he or she is not advised in time. If I have committed to my customer that I will deliver the product on Monday morning by 9:00 a.m. then it is my job to ensure that my commitment is kept. If for any reason I know that I will not be able to keep the commitment and if I have the good sense to reach out to the customer and say that I am not in a position to meet my commitment of 9:00 a.m. please give me time till 9:00 p.m. more often than not the customer will accept. If you just stay silent and don't do anything on the assumption that the customer will understand then you have a difficult situation because then complaints will come in. Communication is the key. You have to communicate to the customer at the right time.

What customer service-related advice would you give to service sector professionals?

We have always heard from time immemorial that customer is king. I think it is important for us to understand a few things. We exist because of the customer. We are in business because of the customer and our entire brand is there only because the customer is buying the brand. When I used to talk to a lot of our young men and women who used to join Guardian, I used to always tell them that in the service sector you have to do two things every morning when you leave for work. Number one, take off your watch and leave it by your bedside and number two, remove your ego and hang it on the hook behind your bathroom door because there is absolutely no place for either the time or your ego when you're talking to a customer. Irrespective of whether the customer is being unfair or unreasonable he or she is your customer and, therefore, you just have no choice but to accept that.

What are some of the most important things that one must avoid while dealing with customers?

Customer familiarity is something which you have to be very very cautious about. No matter how familiar you are or how close you are to a customer, at your place of work he or she is your customer and, therefore, the customer expects you to be professional. He also expects you to maintain a little distance and expects you to be able to fulfil the requirements he has when it comes to the shopping experience.

How do you help your employees develop exceptional customer service skills?

Many companies today have a customer service department. I always tell these companies that you don't need a separate department. Customer service must be a part of your value system. You do not need another group of people to determine what your company’ customer service should be like. You can have a help desk but you shouldn’t have a department for customer service because that has to be imbibed into the value system of your company and of every single employee. Only then will an employee be able to perform. When you are dealing with a customer, if you respect the brand you work for it will come through automatically in your dealings with him or her. Instead of trying to train employees on customer service through training sessions, try to weave it into your company’s culture.

How do you deal with customers with unreasonable demands?

You cannot afford to have your ego. If the customer is being unreasonable, you need to be even more reasonable. You need to calm down. Do not be scared of dealing with a negative customer. Remember that a negative customer will spread a lot of negative things about you but a customer who is negative and who has had a positive experience will become your greatest ambassador so you have to stick by your principles no matter what even if someone is being unreasonable.

What can startups do to improve their customer service levels?

The first and most important thing is to understand our company’s processes. All companies have areas that they are absolutely brilliant at and there are also areas where there is scope for improvement. Understand your strengths and work on your weaknesses. The next thing to do is to understand what your customers want. If you understand what your customer needs and your people have been trained well enough to be able to appreciate the needs of the customers and to be able to give feedback on time, then customer service becomes part of your company’s philosophy.

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